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Geoscience Policy Monthly Review: September 2013

The Monthly Review is part of a continuing effort to improve communications about the role of geoscience in policy. Current and archived monthly reviews are available online.

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  • NRC report studies land change models

At the request of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Research Council (NRC) produced a report synthesizing the most advanced models for assessing land change. The report focuses on how each model can best be used to help agriculture, regional planning, and disaster relief.

The report identifies six categories of modeling approaches: machine-learning and statistical approach, cellular approach, sector-based economic approach, spatially disaggregate economic approach, agent-based approach, and hybrid approaches, in order to compare their strengths and weaknesses at analyzing different types of land use. The report recommends opportunities for improvement within existing land change models.

Sources: The National Academies Press

  • Role of climate change in 2012 weather events

The Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society released a report entitled Explaining Extreme Events of 2012 from a Climate Perspective. The report was compiled by more than 70 scientists on 18 research teams from around the world, and examined the causes of 12 extreme weather events that occurred on five continents and in the Arctic in 2012.

The report shows the intensity and evolution of the storms is largely due to effects of natural weather and climate fluctuations. In some events, like droughts, heat waves, and floods, evidence showed that the emission of greenhouse gases from human-induced climate change contributed to the extreme event. The report concludes that while the events are a natural part of the climate system, the influence of human-induced climate change makes the event more likely to occur.

Sources: American Meteorological Society, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

  • New map of areas most vulnerable to climate change

A study published in Nature Climate Change provides a map of areas most vulnerable to climate change. Authors say they hope to give governments and environmental groups a roadmap to help them identify the places where they should invest in protecting and restoring threatened ecosystems. The paper indicates the areas most impacted by climate change include southern Asia, western and central Europe, eastern South America, and southern Australia. Authors note this map differs from previous climate change maps, which are based largely on climate change exposure and show central Africa, northern South America, and northern Australia as the most vulnerable areas.

In this analysis, the vulnerability of each region is based on climate stability and vegetation intactness. The authors examined the expected stability of the climate with future predictions of climate change and the presence of native vegetation. The report is unique in its focus on human impact on land change through agriculture and urbanization.

Sources: Nature

  • Climate change legislation in the 113th Congress

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report that describes and compares 52 bills introduced in the 113th Congress that directly address climate change. The CRS also issued a report on federal climate change funding from fiscal year (FY) 2008 through the President’s request for FY2014. More than 75% of the $77 billion for climate change activities from FY 2008 to FY2013 was to fund technology development and deployment. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 accounted for more than one-third of appropriated funding for FY 2008-2013.  At least 18 federal agencies administer climate change related activities and programs.
Sources: Congressional Research Service

  • IPCC’s fifth assessment report on climate change

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) released the Fifth Assessment Report. According to the report, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that  greenhouse gas levels and the average world temperature continue to increase, and that the global risk of dramatic changes to weather systems, global sea level, and flood and drought patterns is increasing as well. The panel reviewed latest peer-reviewed research and found with 95% certainty that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel combustion are causing warmer temperatures and changing weather patterns. The panel predicts that anthropogenic warming would continue for centuries even if greenhouse gas emissions were to be stabilized,

Sources: United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

  • Carbon pollution standards for new power plants

The EPA proposed Carbon Pollution Standards under the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from new power plants to improve public health and curb the effects of climate change. According to the EPA, the standards would ensure that new power plants are built with available clean technology, and would coincide with investments in clean energy technologies that are already being made in the power industry. The proposed standards mark the first milestone outlined in President Obama’s Memorandum to EPA on “Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards.” For existing power plants, the EPA intends to issue a proposal by June 1, 2014.

Under the proposed standards, “new large natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, while new small natural gas-fired turbines would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour. New coal-fired units would need to meet a limit of 1,100 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour, and would have the option to meet a somewhat tighter limit if they choose to average emissions over multiple years, giving those units additional operational flexibility.” The proposal is open for comment and comments will be accepted up to 60 days after publication of the proposal in the Federal Register.

Sources: Environmental Protection Agency, White House







Monthly Review prepared by: Maeve Boland, Geoscience Policy Director; Abby Seadler, Geoscience Policy Associate; andSophia Ford, AGI/AAPG Fall Intern.



Compiled October 1, 2013